Mumbai: ‘Secularism’ is a contentious word these elections, with Narendra Modi firmly on one side and a gamut of India’s leaders on the other.
This time, it is National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah in a ‘secular’ face-off with Modi.
After Abdullah recently commented that those who vote Modi should jump in the sea, the BJP prime ministerial candidate has asked the NC boss to look into the mirror first.
“If someone is to drown, then go look at a face in a mirror. Put your father’s picture in front of a mirror and ask yourself with how those who have thrown out Kashmiri Pandits can talk about preventing regionalism,” Modi said in a video released by his office on Monday. “These words do not suit him. We are silent but it doesn’t mean that you keep damaging the secularism that has prevailed in the country for thousands of years,” he said.
Modi further said: “India’s secularism is not because that word has been added in the Constitution. For thousands of years, India has believed in the philosophy of Sarva Path Sambhav [all Dharmas (truths) are equal to or harmonious with each other]. India is the only country which says there is only one truth, seekers express it in different ways.” “India is the only country which says Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah, Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu, Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet (May all become happy, may all be free fom illness. May all see what is auspicious, may no one suffer). India never says Hindus be happy, India thinks about everybody,” he added.
Modi also said his party would never deviate from its stance on secularism and inclusive growth.
But, son Omar was quick to jump to his father’s defence. He said: “Kashmiri Pundits have left the state and that’s the final truth. But Narendra Modi has a habit of distorting facts and it is dangerous for the country if the prime ministerial candidate has such habits.”
He said it is a well-known fact that Kashmiri Pundits left the state. “We are sad about it. Kashmiri muslims are sad with Kashmiri pundits leaving the state. We want them to come back and be a part of Kashmir. We don’t need any lectures from Narendra Modi over secularism,” he said.
Omar went on to say the BJP’s sympathy and attitude for Kashmiri Pundits was callous. “They reacted negatively when a bill was tabled for Kashmiri pundits in Parliament in 2013.” He added: “Kashmir suffered the most during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule. Jagmohan Malhotra was from BJP and not a part of NC when Kashmiri pundits suffered.”
Omar also dared Modi to come to Kashmir. “Narendra Modi has no courage to enter Kashmir. He will seek votes in Jammu and Srinagar but will never enter Kashmir.”
Omar’s parting shot was: “I will resign the day I need to get Narendra Modi’s approval and certificates on secularism.”
Senior Abdullah, during a rally yesterday, had taken a dig at statements made by BJP leader Giriraj Singh and VHP’s Praveen Togadia, saying, “They say those who do not vote for Modi should go to Pakistan. (I say) Those who vote for Modi should drown in the sea.”
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said that secularism is ingrained in the Indian ethos and it was not shaken by such statements. “If we are to consider the biggest damage to this secularism that has been there for thousands of years, it took place in Kashmir. And that too during the tenure when Farooq Abdullah’s father was the chief minister,” Modi said.
“Farooq Abdullahji, it has taken place during your tenure as chief minister and during your son’s tenure. Kashmir is the only state in the country where Pandits were removed purely on the basis of religion,” he said.
Modi’s usual composure looked ruffle in this conversation with reporters, as shown in the video. Modi had not responded to Giriraj Singh’s comments but had rebuked VHP leader Pravin Togadia on Twitter.